Backstreet repairers are putting lives at risk by fitting cars with black market or dummy airbags, according to Paragon Car Finance.
The high cost of replacing deployed airbags has led to a growing black market as the rate of airbag theft escalates.
Paragon boss Pawan Pandya said: “A black market airbag is not necessarily interchangeable between models due to wiring differences. It can deploy during fitting so to prevent this risk, some backstreet repairers are not bothering to wire in the new airbag.”
He said repaired cars were also re-entering the market with dummy airbags stuffed with polystyrene, newspapers and even cut-up training shoes.
“There are internet sites selling replacement airbag covers which claim to hide the fact that an airbag has been deployed but not replaced.”
Mr Pandya warned dealers to closely inspect the airbag unit when acquiring cars through trade-ins or at auction. “Some type of airbag test before a dealer buys a car is even more vital than checking the condition of the engine,” he said.
“After all, a blown engine will lead to a simple warranty repair. A faulty or fake airbag could kill a customer and present the dealer with a massive legal nightmare.”